Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Cut Creek/Bullards Beach Loop

During my usual wintertime pastime of browsing brochures, guidebooks, and websites, I came across a horse-trail map of Bullards Beach State Park. If I began at the Coquille River Lighthouse, I could cobble together a seven to eight mile route through the coastal woods and dunes lurking behind the beach. The allure of this route was that I had never been on the Cut Creek Trail, Northern Loop, and Tsunami Trail before, so all these routes were already pre-permeated with the alluring scent of new trail. Best of all, the terrain was fairly flat for the hernia-impaired and whatever could go wrong?

New camera took a picture of an old rock

Heh heh, a lot apparently, but more on that in a bit. First off, I was really excited about this hike because not only was this a brand new trail for me, but it was both a new trail AND a new camera! I had been having technical problems with my old camera so I ordered my accountant (to whom I'm married) to drop everything immediately and buy me a new camera, stat! That didn't work too well and I had to rephrase and resubmit so it sounded more like a politely worded request, plus I had to actually ask for permission, saying "please" and "thank you" and all that stupid polite stuff. But, after four days of impatient waiting, the camera arrived and it was now time to go play and hike. I think I was so overjoyed that I nearly ran across the dunes and capered through the woods like some of my uninhibited canine friends, hernia notwithstanding.

The mighty Coquille River

At any rate, the hike began near Bullards Beach Campground and I followed the paved trail overlooking the wide Coquille River to the Cut Creek Trailhead. Along the trail, Scotch broom heralded the coming hay fever season with a few desultory but vibrantly-colored yellow flowers. The paved pathway morphed into a soft brown trail comprised of decomposing pine needles flanked by a green coastal jungle and my new camera was immediately put to work.

Yes, this really is the trail

The Cut Creek Trail is primarily a horse trail and accordingly, begins at Bullards Beach Horse Camp. Upon entering the woods right at the start, I had to step around a puddle of water on the trail. The puddle was only an inch or two deep and I could nearly step across it with one manly stride. But that was too good to last. After the first puddle came another, and another, and another, etc. Each puddle was wider and deeper than the preceding puddle. It was kind of like a computer game in that you could brag "Hey, I made it to Puddle Level 14 today!" 

A knee-deep section of trail with a nice reflection

I'm not sure who Jack was but there is a Red Jack Trail and a Black Jack Trail that lead away from Cut Creek Trail to the beach. Both trails are about a quarter-mile long and hiking on either trail was eschewed in favor of the dubious hiking glory that awaited me on several miles of water-covered Cut Creek Trail. The surrounding terrain was heavily wooded and the thick growth made it nigh impossible to bushwhack around these puddles that now bordered on the size of small lakes. To make it worse, years of usage by the horse-riding crowd had turned the trail into an earthen trough and the puddles, just like teenagers the world over, now had a lot of lip. At some point, water began pouring into my erstwhile waterproof boots from above the ankles, making feet wet and cold. My boots were still mad at me over the Threemile Lake expedition and soon became pretty warm with justified ire. However, the icy coldness of the water kept any sweltering of feet to a minimum, but I got the point.

Trail shot (kidding!)

Suddenly, the path exited the woods and traversed a sandy track that was awesomely dry. Heh heh, that was just a joke played on me by trail-makers because the deep puddles soon resumed even if the dense woods did not. This was open marsh and beachgrass country and I found myself merrily splashing past a series of lakes and ponds that fortunately, were not part of the trail. I ran into several people exploring the dunes on horseback and while they seemed nice and all, I couldn't help but notice their steeds wading in water that nearly came up to their bellies, realizing that they were walking on the trail waiting for me in my immediate future. But after steeling my resolve and hoisting the new camera high, I bravely waded across while the riders, who had stopped to watch, applauded either my bravery or foolishness.

Pictures you take when standing in the surf

Well, after nearly three miles, it was nice to get out of all the standing water and on to the relatively dry confines of Bullards Beach. I had given up on the rest of the Northern Loop which, at a trail junction, appeared to have even more water on it than the Cut Creek Trail. Anyway, my loop route would be closed by a less taxing return on Bullards Beach. As I headed south towards the Coquille River, the day gradually changed from sunny to cloudy, and the surf transitioned to high tide. Normally, I'd run from the incoming waves but what the heck, my boots and the feet contained within were already soaking wet so what would be the point. I stayed put, letting the surf wash around my ankles while I photographed the scene. 

The North Loop was even more waterlogged!

So, to summarize, this was one wet-footed endeavor whether on beach or through woods. Sounds like a great hike to me, and don't listen to my boots! For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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